Attractive flavour of Borders derby action over Christmas

Peebles and Gala, pictured, are due to meet tonight at Netherdale (picture by Alwyn Johnton).
Peebles and Gala, pictured, are due to meet tonight at Netherdale (picture by Alwyn Johnton).

South Scotland rugby’s festive feast begins with some appetising Booker Borders League rugby action and concludes with a tasty traditional double helping on Boxing Day.

Tonight (Thursday), Gala play host to Peebles in a Bookers Border League Pool A match, followed on Saturday by a Pool B encounter at the Greenyards between Melrose and Selkirk.

Gala captain Graham Speirs viewed this evening’s 7.30pm game at Netherdale as a good chance for the side to get back into action after a couple of weeks of lay-offs – and they knew the visitors from The Gytes would make it a keen encounter.

“It’ll be good for the boys to get a couple of games under their belts,” he said.

“With the form Melrose have been in this year, it’d be quite difficult for us to go in without having played rugby in three or four weeks.”

Recent postponements had allowed some injuries to clear up, while Speirs reckoned the majority of the first team would be turning out.

He recollected playing Peebles last season and said it had taken Gala about half an hour to get a foothold in the game, because of the lower league team’s ability.

“We’ll have to be fully confident and raring to go from the start,” he said.

“They will come out firing pretty early on, so we need to make sure we see to ourselves physically and are defensively sound in that first half hour.

“It’s been a while since we won a game and Peebles have been doing quite well, so we won’t underestimate them at all.”

The allure of the anything-is-possible Border League, mixing teams from different divisions, in a derby, is also giving Saturday’s 2pm match at the Greenyards some extra spice.

For Selkirk, it’s a chance to play the best team in Scotland at present – andy they intend to field a full-strength squad.

“Melrose are flying high and undefeated. It will be a big ask for the boys but it’s Border League – anything can happen,” said Selkirk manager Tom Ramage. “We will put our strongest team out and hopefully we can match them in some areas.”

The local derby aspect took it to another level and Ramage added: “I played in a few Borders derbies myself – it’s like cup finals all the time. This is kind of our cup final – we will b e the underdogs, and that could work too.”

Ramage added: “Teams have scored against Melrose – they are not 100 per cent bullet-poof at the back door. I would say we could have a chance to put some points behind them.”

Melrose head coach Rob Chrystie said: “There’s not a massive amount of pressure on Selkirk to do anything other than turn up and really get torn into us – I am sure they’ll do that, and they’ll do it bloody well, as they always do.

“We know what to expect but we will approach it as we do every other game. It’s a Border League fixture – we’ll take it seriously and give it the respect it deserves.

“A couple of boys will get opportunities within the squad but there will be a pretty strong Melrose team as well. It’s a first-team fixture.”

On December 26, there’s a pair of long-standing customary encounters, both at 2pm.

Hawick host Jed-Forest in the Skelly Cup – which is also now doubling as a Booker Border League game – and Melrose entertain Gala in the Waverley Cup.